The TSSM mission concept is to perform remote and in situ investigations of Titan primarily, but also of Enceladus and Saturn.
The major goals of the TSSM mission can be summarized under four categories:
- Explore Titan as a system
- Study Titan’s organic inventory and astrobiological potential
- Constrain Titan’s origin and evolution models
- Recover information on Enceladus and Saturn’s magnetosphere
Indeed, although Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is under investigation, it still seems so enigmatic. G.P. Kuiper had discovered from the ground in 1944 its hazy atmosphere but only in 1980 when Voyager 1 visited the Saturnian System details of the thick atmosphere were revealed. Hubble Space Telescope and adaptive optics imaging in the near-infrared from large ground-based telescopes in the 1990s had provided more information, but only in 2004 the complexity of the surface was uncovered by the Cassini-Huygens mission. However, questions about the nature of the hidden surface and the sources of re-supply of methane to the atmosphere remain to be answered.
Methane appears to play the role on Titanic environment that water plays on Earth. This complex exotic world is built by organic activities which still operate and Cassini/Huygens findings suggest a world with a balance of geologic and atmospheric processes that is the solar system’s best analogue to Earth. Moreover, an interior ocean discovered by Cassini, deep underneath Titan’s dense atmosphere and surface is thought to be largely composed of liquid water. TSSM will be the first mission in the 50 years of space exploration, where an extensive and interdisciplinary in situ survey of active organic chemistry and climate on the land, on the sea, and in the air of another world will take place.
To touch, smell, and taste the organic soup of Titan and the organic-laden plumes of Enceladus opens the door to a bold new paradigm of solar system exploration. Scientifically and technically mature, TSSM is ready to do so now.